School to student: Take U.S. flag off your bike

Friday, November 12, 2010

Editor’s note: According to news reports, school officials told Alicea today that he could return the U.S. flag to his bike. In an interview with Sacramento’s KTXL-TV, Superintendent Edward Parraz said the earlier decision by a middle school official to bar Alicea from having the flag “was made for Cody’s safety.”

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Since when is honoring Veterans Day with the display of the American flag

That's a question facing school officials at Denair (Calif.) Middle School
who reportedly prohibited a 13-year-old student from attaching an American flag
on the back of his bicycle.

According to a story
by Monterey TV station KSBW,
officials at the school near Modesto forced
Cody Alicea to remove his flag because some other students complained.

School superintendent Edward Parraz told KSBW that students who didn’t like
the flag might cause a disruption. Under the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court ruling
v. Des Moines Independent Community School District,
school officials
can prohibit student expression if they can reasonably forecast that the speech
or display will cause a substantial disruption.

But something is wrong with this Denair picture. The school administration
apparently reasoned that because of some racial tension in the past stemming
from Mexican flags displayed at school on Cinco de Mayo, it could ban the
American flag. Yet other parts of the Tinker ruling should give officials
pause before they engage in heavy-handed censorship. The Court proclaimed in
Tinker: “But, in our system, undifferentiated fear or apprehension of
disturbance is not enough to overcome the right to freedom of expression.”

Schools facing tensions over cultural differences can teach all students that
disruptions over displays such as flags on bikes or backpacks will not be
tolerated — rather than banning the expression.

Parraz was even quoted as saying that the “First Amendment is important,”
even as school officials proceed to ban Alicea's flag.

Let's hope this and other schools will show justifiable reasons before
silencing student speech on the basis of “undifferentiated fear.”

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